What’s it about? Higurashi Towa, a girl in modern dress, finds herself captured by a shogun and accused of being the “Princess Half-Demon,” someone who seems to have knowledge of Japan’s future. Similar legends were told long ago, about a priestess who came from the village of “Tokyo” and fought evil alongside her half-demon partner.
I feel a tiny bit like I’m cheating as I write this review, since we don’t cover direct sequels that require extensive knowledge of a preceding series to enjoy. But in fairness to me, Yashahime itself can’t quite decide what audience to pursue either. The frame narrative that bookends the episode introduces us to an entirely set of new characters who are color-coded like the original cast but otherwise presented to be accessible to a new audience. And then the middle twelve minutes or so of the episode is a good ol’ game of “Hey kids, remember Inuyasha?” To which my answer is a hearty, “boy, do I!”
Middle school was solidly “the Takahashi Rumiko years” for me, and I have fond memories of sneaking into the living room at midnight to catch Inuyasha dubbed on Adult Swim, reading first the flipped and then unflipped manga volumes, and playing many hours of a PS1 fighting game I found at the local game shop. There were plushies, readers. Hideous ones. That being said, I also fell off before the last 40 episodes or so of the original anime, and never saw the ’09 series that adapted the final arc of the manga at all beyond a few vague spoilers that everyone lived Happily Ever After.
Actually, I think I might be exactly the audience this episode is made for. The middle chunk of the episode, which takes place six months after the end of the manga, alternates between hitting the nostalgia hard—we’re talking “musical cues I didn’t know were stored directly in my bone marrow” hard—and inserting onscreen titles and mini-flashbacks just long enough to jog “oh yeah!” memories about major characters and emotional conflicts.
The actual meat of the flashbacks is a straightforward affair about fighting a demon (with the same weirdly-bloodless-but-still-unsettling sort of design the original series excelled at in its best moments), but a lot of the emotional resonance is locked to returning viewers: it genuinely melted my heart to see Kagome and Inuyasha work so seamlessly as a team and finally talk about the whole “you’re the reincarnation of my zombie ex who I still had some feelings for” thing (long story).
It was also reassuring to see that the writing hadn’t pulled a Boruto and permanently benched Sango despite making her a mother. If you had any emotional investment in the original Inuyahsa at any point, this is worth checking out. It feels like returning to an old friend without being a cheap cash-in, even if it is still holding the unanswered question of “did Sesshoumaru bone his surrogate daughter to produce the new cast” ominously over our heads.
And yet, I can’t bring myself to send new viewers away, because there’s so much to like about the new characters. They’re cool teenage girls who fight monsters! One of them has come from the future despite being related to one of the other girls from the past! Despite only being onscreen for a few minutes, you get a really good sense of the relationships between Towa, Setsuna, and Moroha, and I’d hate for newbies to miss out on future episodes following them just because this first episode wants to clear away old loose ends.
I don’t think the “hey, remember that?” moments will ever completely go away, given that this is a The Next Generation sort of show, but given how much the marketing around Yashahime seems determined to downplay itself as a sequel, I suspect it’s going to do a lot more to stand on its own feet from here on in.
It seems like a potentially great opportunity to check out what enticed so many audiences about Takahashi’s style back in the day, without (thus far), the more poorly aged gender essentialism, homophobia, and comedy perverts that her stories also sometimes came burdened with. Cautious viewers may want to hold back to hear how episode two goes before committing, but I can’t wait to see more.